Composting in a cardboard box

melonpocky(8/ATX)April 9, 2008

Hey everyone :D

My boyfriend does roving IT work where he has access to folks that are throwing out large computer boxes, usually around the 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/2' range. Anyhow, since he's able to bring home such a great bounty and since we rent space in the house and don't want to invest in an expensive composting fixture, I was wondering if any of you have experience in composting *inside* boxes, or if it would even be worth it to try. We may be here for another growing season or two, but probably not a whole lot longer. We have a nice stack of leaves raked this spring (buncha 20-year olds in a house~ yard work isn't something that happens too often!) and some newly mowed grass clippings that I'd love to be able to convert into something useful. I produce a lot of veggie kitchen waste and there is a Starbucks within walking distance, so greens would not be a problem. Oh, and I have a hamster-- he would be doing his part, as well :D

Thanks for the input-- I love you soil and composting folks!

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billhill(z5 MI - KBG)

Cardboard goes IN the compost. NOT compost goes in the cardboard (box) grin ! The cardboard box will totally decompose with the amount of moisture needed for composting. Make a circle out of chicken wire or hardware cloth and start your pile by placing your leaves inside the wire bin and layer your grass clippings, bury your kitchen waste in the center. Cardboard is great compost stuff, let it get soaking wet and tear it into pieces the size of your hand. Think of them as leaves. Shredded paper, newspaper, junk mail, food scraps, junk from the refridgerator, stale beer and wine, recycled beer and wine, Its all good for your commpost heap. Keep your pile damp but not too wet and soon youÂll have black gold. Bill Hill

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 2:51PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I think composting in a box would be doable, just realize the box composts as well. So when the box is gone, the pile should be finished ;-)

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 3:09PM
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arjo_reich

The box will decompose and fall apart before your composted finished.

I don't have any kind of structure for my compost piles, they're just laid out in the back of my yard on my postage stamp (0.19 acre) lot. The only two concerns my neighbors had were if it was going to stink and if it would be a firehazard. After assuring and proving to them that it is neither of these things, they've had no issues with it.

Eventually I plan on picking up several 4'x4' pallets and painting them a moss green color to contain the compost but until I get a pickup, I just free pile them.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 4:10PM
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robertz6

I like the four foot diameter size for composting. I use hardware cloth 18" or 24" high and with 1/4" mesh. Costs about $15 at the hardware store.

I agree that a cardboard box would not work very well. The Cornell Composting site shows some of the more interesting types of containers; trash can and 2 litre soda bottle composting.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 5:12PM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

You will have a nice tidy box of new compost materials sitting in your yard until the first rains. Then you will have a compost pile.

May as well start with the pile and add the carboard to it.

Wayne

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 5:57PM
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melonpocky(8/ATX)

Thanks for the quick responses!

I considered getting something to wrap around the boxes because, well, that makes sense that as the insides decompose it is likely that the outside will, as well. I will look into the chicken wire-- it seems that people on craigslist are always trying to liberate themselves of old stuff like that. As stupid as this sounds, the limiting factor for getting a normal large garbage bin is that everyone here has some sort of small, 2-door vehicle with limited and oddly-shaped cargo space. We're so not equipped for serious gardening.

The reason I don't want just a free pile is that our fence is right next to a sidewalk and the community mailboxes (I have only seen this in Texas-- everywhere else I have ever been has had roadside mailboxes or door slots), so if for some reason something goes awry in the pile, I'd rather it be somewhat contained and able to be capped off to prevent aerating to mix onto the hapless old dogwalker who is checking her mail. Obviously the box alone would disintegrate with the elements so, again, I'll find something to give it some sort of structure on the outside.

Oh, and unrelated to the topic at hand but certainly related to composting-- I believe there are fire ants in my leaf pile. I am not sure if they are indeed fire ants, nor do I want to find out phenomenologically, but there is a colony of something in there. Have any of you run into this, and would this pose any sort of problem to the pile? Sure, biting and stinging me sucks, but if they're doing something good to the composting process I'm sort of okay with it; if they're eating what should be breaking down my pile, I might have issues.

And again, thank you all!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 6:45PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

I use cardboard to keep the weeds down between my beds. Need to get it wet and cover with leaves.

I would think if the pile was right - ants would NOT live in there. Wet it down or get it to heat up & they will move along.

Good Luck,
GumbyCT

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 10:28PM
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arjo_reich

It makes sense to me that there would be ants in your leaf litter. Ants are, for the most part, fungus farmers. They go about collecting the various types of cellulose and carbohydrates needed to grow the fungus and carry it down to their growing chambers and grow a crop of fungus, which they eat. They then clear out the chamber, sterilize it and repeat the process.

Since cold composting is typically a fungal-biased process - whereas hot composting is typically a bacterial-biased process - they could just be harvesting setting up shop there.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 11:10AM
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marie99(z8 SC)

I use the boxes for weed barrier and have to add new ones every few months.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 1:20PM
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